Mark Williams began figure skating about six years ago, and in less than six weeks he will head to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships to strengthen his skills.
Williams, a Lake Oswego High School sophomore and skater at the Carousel Sherwood Figure Skating Club, has qualified for the National Development Team camp in Nashville, Tennessee.
During the three-day camp held in January, qualified ice skaters will enhance their performances, as well showcase some of their riskier moves in front of a team of professionals.
"(The camp) is going to be a highly competitive environment. Everything is going to be evaluated: your strength, stamina and your ability to hold it together under pressure," said Williams, who added he will work on his triple-axel jump.
If he performs well, he has a shot at going to international competitions.
Due to COVID-19, ice skaters were ranked based on their cumulative score during the fall qualifying season. The athletes competed at two of the eight preparatory competitions for a chance to qualify for the U.S. Championships or the National Development Team.
Williams and two Portland Ice Skating Club athletes qualified for the camp, which requires athletes to rank in the top 12. Williams placed sixth after multiple high scores. During the last competition, in November, he placed third in the Novice Men's Division at the Spokane Championship series.
"I qualified quite highly in sixth place. … It was a lot of work, and it wasn't always certain that I was going to get there. But I feel good about what I've accomplished," Williams said.
However, despite his early success, Williams said he has had to work hard to get where he is and balance more responsibility than other young ice skaters might.
Williams said a lot of student ice skaters are home-schooled, to allow more time to train. But Williams is a full-time student at LO High, and very active in the school. Alongside training, he takes multiple advanced placement courses and is a member of the school's robotics team.
"It's been really difficult to keep doing this and keep pushing through to this level. Especially considering everything else I have going on," he said. "But it's really finding that balance."
Before school, Williams skates for two hours starting at 5 a.m. On the weekends he can be found on the ice for upward of five hours, he said.
"(My favorite part) about skating is the training structure. It's a lot of work every day ... and everything boils down to one moment, where everything has to go right," he said, "It's kind of obsessive training ... but doing the work every day, and the payoff once you finally get there is the biggest part for me."
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